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==The life of Giovanni Boccaccio==
The future writer was born in a village outside of the city of Florence and he was the son of Boccaccio de Chellino, a wealthy merchant and banker, who was employed by the famous Bardi Bank. It appears that Boccaccio was born outside of marriage and he was raised by his father and legitimized. The young boy received an excellent education and was tutored in Latin and his father also gave him some business training. From an early age, the young Giovanni was determined to be a poet. His father moved to Naples and worked as a financial advisor to the king and Boccaccio was familiar with the Neapolitan Court. The young man was obliged to become an apprentice banker, which he hated, but he was able to meet many writers and scholars <ref>Bartlett, Kenneth R. The Civilization of the Italian Renaissance. Toronto: D.C. Heath and Company, 1992, p 42-43)</ref>. It was about this time that he became interested in the mythology of the Greeks and the Romans. The young man would regularly attend the Royal Court and he fell in love with the young daughter of the king, who inspired some of his later works, but his passion was not requited. Boccaccio’s first efforts were in poetry and he was much influenced by the Sicilian School <ref>Bartlett, p 42</ref>. He wrote a long poem, Il Filostrato, and Teseida, which represented his emotional turmoil caused by his unrequited love for the King’s daughter. In 1340 the Bardi Bank collapsed, and this causes a European wide financial crisis, which forced Boccaccio to return to Florence, leaving his beloved in Naples. It was at this time that he grew as a writer and wrote a traditional medieval style Romance in verse, In the Elegy of Lady Fiammetta, which has some of his finest poetry. The young writer traveled throughout Italy at this time and he appears to escape the Black Death unscathed (1347-1350). The plague killed up to one-third of the population of Italy and the devastation it caused, deeply impacted Boccaccio’s writings. The Black Death was directly the inspiration for his greatest work the Decameron, which was written between 1348-1353 <ref> Mc William, G.H.: 1995, Introduction to The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio, Penguin Classics, Suffolk England, 1995), p 5</ref>. This is a large prose work and it is a collection of short stories or Nouvelles. It was an instant sensation and has remained so to this day. Boccaccio came to regret his masterpiece and after completing it he seemed to have experienced some form of crisis. In the 1350s he met Petrarch and the two men became friends’ and each influenced the works of the other. In the 1350s Boccaccio wrote the biography of Dante and went on to write a collection of biographies On Famous Women and On Famous Men, which was very popular. He also wrote a work on classical mythology and this is considered to be one of the first studies of myth ever produced. In 1362 during a religious crisis, he met a monk who told him to abandon literature and to burn his extensive library, for the sake of his soul <ref>McWilliam, p 4</ref>. Thankfully, Petrarch intervened and persuaded Boccaccio to follow his vocation as a writer and scholar. His native Florence recognized his talents and he was appointed as a public lecturer on the works of the great Dante. He also because of the influence of his great friend Petrarch, became a diplomat and he was engaged on diplomatic missions throughout Europe. As he grew old he returned to his native Tuscany and lived in the village of Certaldo, until his death in 1375.
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==Boccaccio and the birth of the Novel==
Despite writing a great deal of poetry Boccaccio is best known for his prose and he is acknowledge to be one of the masters of Italian prose. The Florentine was one of the founders of the modern novel and his most famous work is the Decameron. This work begins with a vivid description of the Black Death and provides one of history’s most terrifying accounts of societal breakdown <ref> Bowsky, William M. The Black Death: A Turning Point in History (Hold Rinehart & Winston, New York, 1971), p. 13</ref>. Following this, the reader is introduced to a company of young people who flee the plague in the city to the safety of the countryside. The novel consists of 100 tales that are told by seven young women and three young men. The tales, often love stories, range from the romantic to the erotic. The Decameron was not just a collection of love stories they provide an overview of the human condition. The characters in the story came from all classes of the Early Renaissance and many feature nuns, priests and monks <ref>McWilliam, p 6</ref>. The stories are all based on folk tales from Italy, France, and as far away as India, but skilfully adapted by the Florentine. All of the stories are in Italian and they are all very realistic and the characters behave in a very natural way. This is one of the reasons why the Decameron is still read and admired to this day as it delightful captures the range of human emotions, strengths, and weaknesses. The tales in the Decameron had many admirers and influenced many writers throughout the Renaissance in Italy and beyond. The work was the inspiration for Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales Wright, one of the first great works in the canon of English literature<ref>Herbert G. Boccaccio in England: From Chaucer to Tennyson (London, A&C Black, 2014), p 13</ref>. Many of the tales in the 14th-century work were adapted by dramatists of the stature of Shakespeare, Lope De Vega, and Moliere. The Florentine’s work was a shift away from Medieval Romances to literary realism. He demonstrated that prose could capture the complexity of humans and their situations and while poetry remained the dominant mode of literary expression, after the Decameron, literary prose became more popular and widely accepted. The second great prose work of Boccaccio is the Elegy of Lady Fiammetta (1345-1347) and this is regarded as the world’s first psychological novel. This work is in the form of a monologue by a young woman narrating her tragic love for a young merchant. Boccaccio’s work was unlike anything else written before and its psychological realism was a radical departure from medieval literature where characters were stereotypes and not individuals. Boccaccio inspired many writers to abandon allegory, so typical of the Middle Ages and adopt a realist style of writing <ref> Burckhardt, Jacob, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (London, Penguin Books, 1987), p 67</ref>. The Florentine was also one of the first biographers and his work on the Life of Dante is one of the first literary biographies. His potted accounts of the lives of famous people also decisively shaped the Renaissance tradition of biography, for example, Vasari’s Lives of the Artists. The impact of Boccaccio on literature in Europe cannot be overstated <ref>McWilliams, p 4</ref>.